Word of the Day #2: Degree (356 words)

“Usageaster,” Sadie said. She pointed impetuously toward the computer screen.

“Usageaster,” Dana repeated without inflection.

Sadie made a disgruntled noise and pointed at the screen more violently, her eyes locked on Dana’s face. “It’s dictionary.com’s word of the day today.”

Dana let a second slide by, waiting for further explanation. “What does it mean?”

“Noun,” Sadie snapped without looking at the computer. “A self-styled authority on language usage. Usageaster.”

Dana leaned forward, looking at the definition. Sadie had said it word for word, which didn’t surprise her. She read it over again. “That sounds–”

“Dumb,” Sadie snapped. She spun a little in her computer chair and twisted back just as quickly. “It sounds like a third grader trying to insult someone with a word that they don’t actually know. It’s like ‘you sewage disaster’ crammed together!”

Dana cocked her head to one side. She hadn’t heard that insult before.

“It’s a bad super villain with a plot to start World War III by brainwashing everyone to sue some guy named Jasper!” Sadie continued. “It’s a really bad superhero. It’s like someone’s tongue fell out of their mouth mid-speech. Who came up with this? It doesn’t even have a decent root word. It just says it’s a derivation of ‘usage.’ Where’s the Greek or the Latin or the Old French for goodness sake?” She made another, sharper, disgusted noise and pointed at the screen again. “People should have to apply for a license before they just start adding words like this to the English language. It’s not supposed to work like this. Just listen to it!”

Without moving the mouse, and using only one finger, Sadie pressed repeatedly on the speaker icon. A mechanical voice repeated “usageaster, usageaster, usageaster” over and over, until it sounded more like the clunk and trundle of a machine than a word.

After a moment, Sadie caught Dana’s carefully controlled blank expression and then she stopped, her finger still pointing down toward the mouse.

“What?” Sadie asked.

Dana paused, then answered very slowly. “You’re a usageaster.”

Sadie’s eyes narrowed. “No. I have an English degree.” She went back to poking the mouse.


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